Common Problems Patients Face in the Hospital

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It’s a fact of life: people checking into the hospital face risks. Expecting to get better, some actually wind up getting worse.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about hospital risks after surgery. There’s the danger of medical complications, like bleeding or infection. Then there are the human errors, like getting the wrong drug or dosage. “Even though you’ve got a lot of well-trained people in a hospital working very hard, they’re still people,” says Fran Griffin, RRT, MPA, a director at the Institute for medication error,” says Carolyn Clancy, MD, director of the Agency for risks of DVT for several reasons. If you’re immobile in bed, your circulation gets worse. That makes the blood more likely to pool and clot in your legs. Also the blood vessels in your legs can become very “relaxed” during the anesthesia used for surgery and the blood can slow down its movement enough to form a clot, especially if the vessel has had prior damage (for example, by way of a previous history of a broken leg) . The trauma of surgery itself also increases the blood’s clotting tendency.

Without preventative treatment, the odds of getting DVT after a prolonged major surgery are 25%. For some surgeries, like joint replacement, the odds of DVT are more than 50%.

Fortunately, careful use of wisdom teeth. “The biggest predictor of serious bleeding after surgery is having bled after surgery before,” says Clancy. If your surgeon knows, they can take precautions.

Hospital Risk No. 6: Anesthesia Complications

While many patients still worry about anesthesia, experts say that it’s really quite safe these days. “There’s no doubt that the biggest advances in improving surgical safety have been in anesthesiology,” Clancy tells WebMD. “They’ve made enormous strides.”

But while the risk of problems is now low, there are still precautions you should take. First, ask to meet with your anesthesiology team to discuss your options. Some only need a local or regional anesthetic, while others will need full general anesthetic. Go over the benefits and risks of each one.

Although rare, some people have allergies to certain anesthetics. Rare genetic conditions can also trigger anesthesia complications. “It’s always worthwhile to check and see if any other family members have had a bad reaction to anesthesia,” Clancy says. If you suspect you might be at risk, you may have testing done before the surgery.

Speaking Up Lowers Hospital Risks

When you’re in the hospital, it’s very easy to feel intimidated. While you lie in bed, groggy and disheveled in a sweaty johnny-coat, you may feel pretty powerless compared to the brisk, lab-coated doctors who appear at your bedside. What could your puny opinion matter to all these experts? It may be tempting to give up control, to lie back and just hope that your doctors and nurses will remember everything.

But you should never give up responsibility for your own health. The advice from all the experts is to pay attention and ask questions.

“In the old days, good patients were the ones who didn’t make any noise and were grateful,” says Clancy. “It turns out that those patients don’t do so well. The ones who do well are the ones who ask questions.”

So to lower your hospital risks, you have to be an active and involved patient. Not only will it give you a feeling of control over your situation, but it may even improve your care. If you’re too dazed after surgery to pay attention, your family members should be asking questions on your behalf.

“Questioning authority is never easy,” says Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and safety policy at the American Hospital Association in Chicago. “But remember it’s your body, your health, and your life. If you ever have questions or concerns about anything during your hospital stay, you have to speak up.”